When Marc Summers showed up for the grand opening of Market District in Carmel, I was impressed. I remember him back in the day of Double Dare on Nickelodeon (yes, I just dated myself). Slime and all, he was the real deal. He was cool, funny and loved to slime people, so what was not to love? As an adult, I became fascinated with watching him on Food Network’s Unwrapped and the rest, is well, not so much history as present and even future tense.

We caught up with him for a few fun questions about Indianapolis (did I mention he’s a native Hoosier?), food and what the grand opening for Market District meant for him.

Edible Indy: How did Indianapolis shape your view of food as an adult?

Marc Summers: Growing up, the food scene that exists today, primarily because of the success of Food Network, did not exist in Indy or anywhere else! It was basically meat and potatoes, a trip to Burger Chef now and then, the Lotus Garden on Sunday nights once a month, and Shapiro’s on the south side and Fox’s Deli in Broad Ripple, and in high school, Sam’s Subway. Steak ‘n Shake was a part of my life, as well, plus The Huddle and The Tee Pee. Let’s just say, my palate has grown tremendously since then.

EI: Shapiro’s Deli is said to be one of your favorite local places to grab a sandwich—what are some of your other local Hoosier indulgences?

MS: I am not in town that much to experience all the new hot spots. I was at a very cool pizza spot way up on the north side a few years ago. Unfortunately, I am not in tune to the culinary goodies of the city anymore.

EI: Which chef has been the most enjoyable to work with over the years on the Food Network?

MS: That’s like asking which of my children is my favorite! Chef Irvine and I have worked together for 10 years now and I am always learning from him. Bobby Flay and Michael Symon are good friends. Worked with Bobby a lot back when I was the original host of Food Network Star and he is amazing. He is also not just a celebrity chef, but a man who still works in all of his restaurants. I recently did an episode of The Chew with Michael Symon and we always have fun together. Mario Batali is fun, as is Giada. I have appeared on Rachael Ray’s show several times, and recently was a judge on Guy’s [Fieri’s] Grocery Games. Let’s just say, I feel like the luckiest man on the planet!

EI: Do you cook at home? If so, what are you known for or what is your best dish?

MS: My wife does most of the cooking inside, but I am the king of the backyard barbeque! That is where I shine. Be it steaks, chicken or my incredible grilled shrimp with my special sauce, that is where I am the master of my domaine.

EI: What is your least favorite type of food or dish?

MS: My least favorite dish? Anything with tofu, asparagus, Brussels sprouts or bottom feeding fish.

EI: What is the most enjoyable meal you have ever eaten and where was this meal?

MS: Most enjoyable dish? So many. A restaurant called La Rosetta in Rome comes to mind first. Incredible seafood. The French Laundry in Napa, Ristorante Bartolotta in Las Vegas at The Wynn, and almost any restaurant in my adopted home of Philadelphia. Best culinary scene perhaps anywhere in the world currently. Oh, and Milos in New York City.

EI: Childhood memories—many of them stem back to food—as a child, what was a fond food memory you can share with our readers?

MS: Childhood memories of food? That is easy. My grandmother in Toledo was the world’s best baker! Cookies, apple and cherry pastries, no recipes, just talent. I only wish my mother learned how to carry on that tradition. Sadly, it was not meant to be.

EI: With your partnership with the Food Network you see so many different levels of the food movement. What is your view on where Indiana falls with the local movement compared to other states?

MS: Be it Indiana, Ohio, the smallest town in Massachusetts or a two thousand-year-old village in Tuscany or Umbria, food globally has become stellar. More and better chefs who are creating unique and unusual dishes, and consumers who have open minds about many cuisines, have changed the entire culinary world.

EI: What do you think we need to do to elevate the awareness of our Hoosier talent even more?

MS: How do we elevate the chefs and food creators in Indiana to national status? It is already happening. With more opportunities on TV, the cooking pool continues to expand. I recently discovered The Cake Bake Shop in Broad Ripple. Gwen is killing it here in town, and I predict great things for her. I just did a segment on Food Network that will tell all of America about her talent. Love her.

EI: Have you visited Milktooth yet?

MS: Know about Milktooth. Hear great things, just have not had the time yet. Hopefully soon.

EI: Why was the Market District grand opening in Carmel so important to you? What do you feel they are bringing to Central Indiana that we may be lacking?

MS: Why am I so interested in the Giant Eagle brand Market District? Because I grew up in that business. At one point, my family had the largest supermarket in the state: Berky’s Supermarket. It began in the 1940’s and continued almost to around 1970. I would work there on weekends and in the summer. Indiana University took it away from us to build hospitals. It was at 920 West Michigan.

For the last 15 years, I have made a majority of my income hosting and producing television at Food Network. A few years ago, I began doing personal appearances for Giant Eagle Market District in Pittsburgh and Columbus, Ohio. When I first saw the stores, my head exploded! Besides the size, it was the quality and gigantic choices of every food item imaginable. Pastries, pizzas, olive oils, barbecue chicken….you name it, they had it and then some. From the way they inspire and treat their employees, to the dedication to their customers, I have never seen such a top-notch business anywhere. Indy is in for a great surprise. It will change the way they shop for food forever. I say this from the heart. What an amazing organization.

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